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Sagada windfarm project stalled

SAGADA, Mountain Province – No studies on the effect of wind turbine construction stalled information to guide affected folks on whether or not to give their consent on the proposed construction by Philcarbon Inc of a proposed 15 megawatt windfarm atop Pilaw-Langsayan ridge between the boundary here and nearby Besao.

This aside from no hydrogeology and soil tests, financial projections, and detailed engineering plans that participants during the May 20-24 wanted to know during the second general assembly of the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process conducted by the national commission in indigenous peoples in barangays of Kiniway, Lacmaan, Padangaan, Besao West, Besao East, Suquib, Gueday, Agawa of Besao and northern barangays Bangaan, Pide, Aguid, Fidelisan, Tanulong, Poblacion, Dagdag and Demang of this town who noted absence of technical and detailed information to guide affected folks in said areas to come up with a decision.

Bangaan Todyog from Bangaan barangay aired hesitation on the installation of wind turbines which might hit water sources and may divert water to either adjoining Besao or Sagada and may trigger conflict between the two tribes.

Philcarbon consultant Marijo Macaldo from Apercu Consultants and Philcarbon director Leonides Natera said steps shall be done not to hit water sources on the construction of the windmill turbines but were not able to provide studies on the assurance that water systems shall not be hit.

The Pilaw-Langsayan ridge sits on a critical watershed where hundreds of villagers from identified barangays cited above source their domestic and irrigation water to nearby rice fields and vegetable patches.

The FPIC process on the conduct of a second general assembly lets applicant Philcarbon present their engineering work plan and feasibility studies, and other relevant information to inform affected folks on the company’s proposed windfarm project .

Noting lack of tests and information on the proposed windfarm, community leader Henry Aquin from Besao said the people of the affected barangays should be informed so as to let them be fully appraised of what the project is all about and guide them in coming up with a decision of whether to allow the windfarm or not.

Indigenous Peoples representative to the Sangguniang Bayan of Besao, Ben Marrero also forwarded that environmental studies have not reached the legislative of said community.

Women leader Janet Otinggey from Besao is fearful that the weight of the turbine might someday in the future give way and cause a landslide.

There is no soil or hydrogeology tests by the proponent though studies shall be done later , Natera and Macaldo said.

The environmental impact assessment conducted by Philcarbon and submitted to the department of environment and natural resources did a vegetative, water resource, and bird path assessment on the proposed windfarm.

FPIC guidelines provide for at least 2 months decision period following the second general assembly of the FPIC process.

Affected folks in Besao asked for an extension of decision making pending the needed information from Philcarbon.

Though barangay captain of Fidelisan James Duyog said the village constituents already decided that they don’t want the project including affected folks from Agawa, further forwarding threats of landslides that might happen in the future.

Community leader and former kagawad Langbay Suyon from Aguid further noted that people don’t want the project so urged people to state their negative position to the proposed project.

Community leader Bernabe Dekdeken of barangay Agawa, Besao was doubtful on the surface studies conducted by Philcarbon on the distance of water springs from the proposed turbine and stated his negative stand on proposed windfarm.

In the midst of environmental questions on the proposed windfarm, engineer Ronaldo Angeles of the Department of Energy said “there is yet no detailed study on wind energy” in the country.

With the full blown implementation of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, there are 33 wind-based energy projects in the Philippines currently on their exploration stage. Should the Sagada-Besao windfarm proceed, this shall be the first windfarm built on a watershed in the country.

Philcarbon assured the public during the May consultation 2012 that they shall undergo an environmental impact assessment, a requirement before the Environmental Clearance Certificate shall be issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

An ECC was issued November 12, 2012 to Philcarbon by the Environmental Management Bureau detailing the conditions and requirements of conducting the proposed windfarm based on the envir0nmental impact assessment submitted by Philcarbon and instructed further submission of permits prior to operation and conduct of monitoring activities during operational stage.

Angeles said the necessary permit and clearances as those needed from the concerned local governments units and agencies as the department of environment and natural resources including a land use permit and an FPIC from the NCIP has to be submitted to DOE before any construction shall be done.

The granting of the service contract by DOE to Philcarbon is not automatic to start operations, Angeles said, saying further that if the people don’t want the project as manifested in a no-consent certification then the DOE cannot issue a notice to construct said project.

There are 10 proposed turbines spanning 4-5 kilometers along the Langsayan-Pilaw Ridge covering a 648 hectare application to DOE, and an 8 kilometer transmission route from the ridge to sitio Pegew to connect to the national electrical grid.

Although Natera said Philcarbon is not yet sure on how many hectares is the coverage of the proposed windfarm saying they “shall give back” to the Department of Energy what shall not be used.

The first community assembly validated findings of the field based investigations taking note of the extent of the ancestral domain and the indigenous peoples who are going to be affected including the proposed sites.

Negotiation and a memorandum of agreement follow approval should the affected folks favor the proposed project, otherwise, no MOA shall be done if not.